Nathaniel Cunningham, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Nathaniel Cunningham, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics
Physics Department Chair
Planetary Science & Astrophysics
Office location

133 Olin Hall of Science
(through department office Olin 134)

Office hours

Fall 2021, in person or via Zoom:

Monday 3-4pm
Tuesday 1-2pm
Friday 9-10am

Just knock on my door, or email me for a Zoom link. I welcome an email or phone call to arrange another time!


(402) 465-2494


I fell in love with Physics in high school, and pursued it in college, where I also discovered philosophy. After agonizing about whether to continue my studies in physics or philosophy after graduation, physics won out, and I chose to specialize in astrophysics.

In my graduate work, I developed astronomical instruments, and used them to study the births and deaths of stars. I have since worked on detector systems for the high-power Diocles laser system the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and I currently study the surfaces and atmospheres of small bodies in the Solar System using ultraviolet light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Since 2007, I have contributed to NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto (and beyond!) and the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission that orbited a comet.

I joined the Physics faculty at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2010.


Ph.D., Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

M.S., Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

B.S., Physics, University of Notre Dame, summa cum laude
Minor: philosophy

Courses taught

Introduction to Meteorology
Principles of Physics I & II / General Physics I & II
Introduction to Modern Physics
Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering
Electromagnetism & Optics
Classical Mechanics
Quantum Mechanics
Thermal and Statistical Physics

Course schedule

Fall 2021:

General Physics I
MWF 10am - noon

MWF 2 - 3pm,
Th 2-4pm

Advanced Lab / Independent Study:
Tu Th 9am-noon

Research and academic interests

Ultraviolet spectroscopy

Small bodies in the Solar System: Moons, comets, asteroids. Properties of their surfaces and thin atmospheres/outgassing.

Astronomical instruments and detectors

Professional and community affiliations, certifications and awards

American Association of Physics Teachers
American Astronomical Society, Division of Planetary Science
Society of Catholic Scientists

Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Physics